Monday, December 31, 2007


Okay . . . . I have just seen the new Channel 10 advertisement for the Australian "So You Think You Can Dance". The ad looks thoroughly lame.

I watched part of the US version. Their promos were exciting. There were flips and stuff. Tricky.

The Australian version looks like it comes from 2003. Seriously, the promo song is "Move Your Feet" by Junior Senior. Surely they could have found something a LITTLE more current???!!! There is little or no dancing. Not. Impressed.

I'm hanging out for Australia's Biggest Loser, but that is it. (The US version that just finished ROCKED. I love that show.) Meh.

Happy New TV Year.

My last word for 2007

I can't believe that 2007 is over. I really don't feel like I am ready for it to be finished. I'm not sure why.

I hope you all had a lovely 2007, and that if it wasn't lovely, I hope that 2008 is a great improvement.

Tomorrow is 2008. It is also Tuesday. I am one day older, and one day closer to going back to uni. I'll have to start studying my bum off again. I'll get to catch up with friends and learn all kinds of interesting things. Then I'll have to memorise them and they won't be so fun any more. I guess that's the way it is.

I am 90% certain that I have decided on my specialty. I am also 75% certain that I will change my mind again at some point during the year. This is okay.

I'm going to go to bed now. Tomorrow I have to get used to writing a new number when I jot down the date. I need some rest to prepare for the challenge.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More Christmas stuff!

I used to hate Christmas time. I used to see it as fake, commercial and a generator of trash. As a religious holiday in a mostly secular country, it seemed like a huge farce.

Now I am finding myself getting excited about the prospect of Christmas!

I still don't care for the religious side, even though I respect the beliefs of those who choose to celebrate it that way. Part of me is a little sad that they can't teach the story of the nativity in preschools any more. Even if you don't believe in it, it is part of the mythology of our culture. You may have to be quite scarred by past religious experience to find it offensive. After all, what is there to hate about a newborn baby in some straw surrounded by his parents, farm animals, shepherds, three kings and a little drummer boy?

And yes, I know that there is also a pagan background to many parts of the celebration. I like the symbolism of starting a new year in the middle of winter, but as we celebrate in the midst of a sweltering summer this hardly makes much sense to me. Personally I would celebrate moving towards winter in our climate!

Yule is exciting for me because I feel like I need a nice celebratory season. There are sparkly lights and shiny decorations up everywhere and this actually cheers me up this year. I love buying presents for people. This year they are already wrapped and ready to transport.

I think that Christmas is special for me this year because I need a reprieve and a break. It means that I have survived my first year of medical school. I can't wait to go back next year (sick, I know ;) ) but it is nice to be here and taking a breather.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

It's over!!!!!

Medical school is over for the year. The assessment is finished, the PBL groups have wrapped up, we have jumped through all of the hoops and I'm there.

How do I feel? I am spent. Drained. Exhausted.

To be honest, I am very glad that I finished the year. In the second semester, I felt completely lost at times. That goodness that I had a great group of friends who, although they might not have realised it, helped to get me through the year. THANKS, everybody!

I never had any intention of dropping out, but it is a testament to having lived a little and having a slightly balanced perspective on life that I didn't crumble completely. I'm a consistent student who tries to work hard. If I found it difficult, god knows how others managed.

I have to have a solid whinge about our course at this point. Even though the point of graduate medicine is that you have experienced people who can learn independently in your course, it doesn't mean that you can just throw them to the sharks and expect them to teach it all to themselves, and then examine them on material that hasn't been covered in your lectures, PBLs, notes or anything that your floundering students are likely to remember.

Running a course like this will help you end up with a lot more work, due to the number of students sitting supplementary exams, and a high drop-out rate, not to mention a dreadful student morale. But perhaps you just don't care, and choose to focus on the numbers and the amount of times you can make the paper for innovations.

Bah, humbug. I'm just bitter and twisted.

I'm taking up more exercise and meditation in the break, learning to take healthy perspective on life, plan things better and spend more time catching up with friends and less time doing unnecessary things. I would be lying if I said that I hadn't lost a close friendship or two in the past year. To be honest, this wasn't entirely from the course but due to external life events, however being busy and distracted with study did not help.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go and sleep for another month. In a few more weeks, it all starts again.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Where do the therapy dogs go for help?

I have heard wonderful things about pet therapy. I have read about it, seen some small pieces on the tv, and have heard anecdotes, but until recently I had never seen a therapy pet.

From all accounts, the little dog involved seemed to bring out the communication skills and emotions of the patients involved. They enjoyed having him there, and he brightened their day.

But how was the experience for him?

I had mental images of the dogs in pet therapy running up and down the hallways with their tails wagging, being happy to be the subject of affection from people, being keen for games, getting happy at all of the interesting smells and displaying other normal dog behaviour. I met this beautiful dog, and he displayed none of the above traits.

Having spent the majority of my life around large dogs, I can safely say that he seemed to display no body language whatsoever, he didn't respond to my body language or touch, and from my impressions he just sat there staring straight ahead, almost catatonic. For me, it was like having a conversation with a person who has locked themselves away in a safe corner of their mind and is completely oblivious to the outside world. He just wasn't present.

My thoughts were that this little pup was either extremely emotionally damaged, or on some kind of doggy sedative. I know that they screen these dogs carefully, but his emotional affect and reactivity was VERY abnormal. I am concerned for him, and left the experience somewhat disturbed.

The joys of Christmas shopping on-line

Christmas is just around the corner. For once, I have finished my Christmas shopping. This year I did it almost completely on-line.

One of the biggest advantages of this for me, is that you can start to build up a list of things that you want, then order them when you feel ready. There is no in-store pressure and you don't have to worry about driving another 30 minutes back to the store the next time you have a day off in order to actually buy the product. You can shop at any time of the day, and avoid the crowds.

Now I just have to wait for it to arrive so I can sit in front of the tv and wrap everything.

I'm not a complete recluse, and don't mind going to the shops around Christmas time. It is nicer to be able to take your time, stop and have a coffee and people-watch (one of my favourite spectator sports), without having to freak out and worry about whether you have remembered to buy presents for the people on your list.

Indeed, we went shopping for Christmas-tree lights this afternoon, and I had the luxury of being able to wander around in-store and look at all of the decorations without feeling any pressure to buy anything or shop for anybody else, while my better half went looking for the exact lights he wanted. It was actually more fun than normal shopping.

Now I am going to hang the wreath on the door, find the table decorations and the Christmas decorating will all be done! I hope your Christmas preparation is similarly relaxed!

I'm not going to cook much to bring to Christmas lunch this year. I went mad last year, but this year I'm going to make one main dish and one cake. Scrap the cake. I'm bringing chocolate soy ice-cream! Nobody else will touch it and it will be mine, all mine!!

This year has been stressful enough. It is time for a break.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

In-laws: enough already!

Having been married quite a while now, I have a little advice I would like to share on the subject of mother-in-laws:

1) Don't say what you are thinking, unless you are being directly trampled on, in which case, keep a level head and try to stand up for yourself without giving the other party ammunition or reason to make the situation any worse.

2) Keep your distance. Preferably over a thousand kilometers and over multiple state lines.

3) The longer you can leave having kids, the longer they will keep their distance.

4) I'm also planning on spending time teaching my kids how to dress up as little punks and act like they have attitude around grandma ("Barbie is a misogynist symbol of a repressive, capitalist society, Nanna!"), in order to score new clothes and brownie points from Mum.

*sigh* I can only dream. ;)

Saturday, November 10, 2007


The Smokey Bacon flavour of Pringles has ticks on the container saying that it is suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, meaning that in actual fact, it contains no animal products at all.

Yet many more products that seem vege-friendly (e.g. flavours of baked beans) sneak things like bacon into their ingredients.

The 21st century is a very, very strange place.


Signs you may not eat enough fruit:

As a check-out operator at your local grocery store, you feel it is necessary to ask a customer, "Is this a pineapple?"

My better half earned his title by keeping a completely straight face when answering, "Yes."

As it is yellow on the inside and rough as hell on the outside (cut in half), there is really not much else that it is likely to be. . . .

Monday, November 5, 2007

Brain fluff

In the past couple of weeks, I have gotten rid of my addiction to:

a) Chocolate. This was completely unintentional, as I just ran out and couldn't be bothered buying any more. For a little while I really craved it after dinner, but now I just don't care.

b) Neighbours. Yes, I used to watch this show. Now I just don't care any more.

c) First-year. My sentimentalism has vanished and I just want to get on with the show.

d) Reading blogs. I don't spend as much time on the computer, and although I like to check up on how my favourite bloggers are going, I down patrol the internet any more for things that might tickle my fancy and lead me into the perfect specialty for me.

So there you go.

We are approaching the holidays, and my notes were quite poorly organised this year. I can't decide whether I should do something about it, or just rely on textbooks and on-line resources to look up things that I need to revise. I have a sneaking suspicion that my piles of ridiculously organised notes will be going for a ride in the council bin.

Edit: I just read this post, and thought it sounded a little bit down. Rest-assured, I am very happy and up-beat at the moment! I'm just ready to let go and get on with the business of living!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Just to let you know, I'm still here. I'm working towards the end of the year at the moment and am a real little busy bee.

More soon.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Musical Fruit


Why Medical Students Should Eat More Legumes

By legumes, I mean the entire family of beans, peas and lentils. If your idea of a legume is that mushy bean salad at family barbeques that nobody touches, you need to get out more and explore the fine world of beany cuisine!

1) Legumes are incredibly cheap. If you go into a food store with bulk bins, you will only pay a couple of dollars for a whole kilo of dried beans, depending on which store you go into.

Buying cheap food saves you money. Depending on your circumstances, this excess of money can buy you extra time on your rental accommodation, or beer. Personally, beer gets my vote.

2) Legumes keep you regular. Ever needed a break from PBHell? Can't stand two hours straight of petty medical students arguing about liver metabolism or the justice of socialised medicine?

Sure, these topics may be interesting on their own. However, the fastest way to make a topic unbearable is to give it to two stubborn medical students to argue over. You need an excuse to get away, even for a couple of minutes!!

Legumes will give you a valid and honest escape! I love being regular. Vegetarians and vegans are notorious for their love of discussing the poop. Eat lentils for a while, and you will soon discover why!

3) Legumes are low GI, low fat, high protein . . . blah blah blah. Yes, as medical students and future doctors, we should, in theory, aspire to be some kind of healthy example to our patients. Really. Legumes are VERY healthy.

Personally, I like to imagine that they counteract the occasional beer that I drink. Yes, I KNOW that this isn't true, but I like to think that it is. Think of it along the same lines as people believing that eating celery helps you to lose weight due to negative calories. Sure, it may be a pipe-dream, but it is a nice one!

4) Do you like baked beans on toast? Learn to make your own legume recipes, and you will have a million different variations. You might even pick up something more interesting to eat them with than stale slabs of toasted, cheap student bread!

Most Australians don't know the value of a good chilli. Imagine your favourite flavour of tin of baked beans, and multiply the taste, quality, texture and everything else by a factor of one hundred. Mmmm, chilli.

5) Remember that slow-cooker that you were given as a present years ago when you moved out of home? Lentil-based dishes are the perfect thing to cook in them, as the dish doesn't end up tasting overwhelmingly like meaty gunk, as a beef or chicken dish would if it were done in a slow-cooker.

Do up a massive batch of lentils, stick them in the freezer and have handy (and cheap) beans available any time.

Throw in all kinds of stuff into the slow-cooker (within reason) that you wouldn't know how to use in any other way. Quince paste? Into the slow cooker! Bay leaves? Slow cooker! Those extra left-over potatoes, or that box of random frozen vegetables in the freezer that you don't know what to do with? Slow cooker! A dinner that is ready when you get home and ISN'T out of a takeaway carton or frozen box is always a good thing.

6) Go exotic! Some of the best Indian cuisine is lentil-based. If you don't already know how many wonderful dishes can be based on lentils and rice, you should check it out. VERY far from boring.

7) Variety of beans. Yes, you may laugh, thinking that beans cannot possibly have the variety of, oh, steak. However, the variety of DRIED beans and lentils available in the bulk bins in the health food store is amazing.

Readers from the USA will probably not realise this, but in Australia we have VERY FEW varieties of beans available tinned. Plus, the tinned ones are always much more mushy, high in salt, and seem more bland.

Aussie readers, ever wanted to try a Black Eyed Pea? No, it really is an actual bean, not just the name of that group Fergie came from! Black beans are just pretty. And if you think that chickpeas are horrid out of a tin, try some that have been cooked properly - you won't go back!

8) Be the ultimate host! Learn to cook a legume dish properly and you may just pick up one interesting and tasty dish to prepare that you can be proud of when inviting vegetarians and vegans over for dinner.

There are a LOT of vegetarian medical students and doctors out there, and a quite few vegans to boot. The reasons behind this are both personal and cultural, but they are out there. Serve a vegan a tasty chilli for dinner when they are used to visiting people and expecting to get unflavoured raw tofu and a limp side-salad, and they will love you forever.*

Ah, I do love the humble bean.

* N.b. Don't be insulted if they are paranoid about the ingredients. Some people think that bacon is a condiment, chicken salt doesn't matter and that lard is good to add flavour. Needless to say, these ingredients DO matter to your vegetarian/vegan guest. Once bitten, twice shy.


Why do I always feel like I have failed an exam after I have sat it? Even though I have NEVER failed one in my entire life, I still feel this way.

The strange thing about going back to study after working for a few years, is that you get used to the responsible (haha!) worker mind-set, and expect yourself to be able to do everything that is asked (at least reasonably). The thing is that in exams, while it would be fantastic to know everything on the exam, it is not necessary to actually know everything to pass. (Well, not for most subjects . . .)

Thus, when you go into an exam feeling like you HAVE to know everything on it, and you don't, it scares the living hell out of you and you feel like you have failed.

Then again, I would rather have a doctor who knows as much as possible, wouldn't you? Even though a lot of what we learn in first-year is just foundation theory, it must still help somehow.

*End rant of massive self-pity*

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Thinking of a happy place

Do you ever feel like you want to lie down and sleep for the longest time, but you can't let yourself so you keep plodding along?

This is where I am at right now.

It will pass.

I'm happy, just tired.

Plus I can hear the sound of a neighbour vomiting noisily into the gutter or the garden. Things could be much, much worse.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Second-year, here we come!

We are approaching the end of our first year of medical school. This has good aspects and bad aspects. Well, to be honest, the good out weighs the bad by a fair bit!

The good things I am personally excited about are as follows:

a) I will no longer be a first-year! When people ask what year I am in and I say, "first", I die a little inside from the shame.

b) There will be new first-years, and they won't be us! Hahaha!

c) I will feel a lot more comfortable in my role as a medical student than I did at the start of first-year, and start to get into the substance of the course more. A lot of the first year is working out which way is up, while trying to juggle a million things at once. The juggling will get harder, but at least I will know my way around!

d) I am one year closer to not being poor. I love working. I love earning a full-time wage. I love being an employee. Nothing quite beats the feeling of pride that you get every time you get that newly-minted hospital ID badge. I get so excited when I have to go to security/admin to get the photo! With time it gets a beating and resembles me less and less every year, but I still love my ID badges. There have to be more people out there than me who feel this way!

e) We start to get into the actual pathology a lot more in second year! This is very exciting for me, and many other people. As interesting as homeostasis and normal functioning are (and yes, they are what we aim for!), I find it fascinating to see what can go wrong with people. Frankly, I am surprised that our average life expectancy is so high!


a) Exams are going to get much meaner and nastier and will also examine things from first-year. My brain may not be big enough.

b) The opportunity for work will diminish slightly each year. Luckily my better half seems to get small raises semi-regularly, so now we just have to keep interest rates down and we will be fine. Oh, and I am also a gunner at cooking rice and beans, or rice and veggies, and other meals that don't cost the earth.

c) We get new PBL groups. This may actually be good or bad. As much as I hated PBHell, I was with a pretty nice group of people.
d) I am a little bit closer to shutting down this blog. Australian hospitals are VERY strict about their doctors not blogging. It is a BAD move career-wise to be caught writing a blog. I never write about anything involving patients (as much as some people would like to read it, I'm sure) because I KNOW it could come back to bite me in the buttocks in a massive way, but even with this policy firmly in place, it would be a bad idea.
So now all I have to do is survive to the end of the year. However, I think I am close enough to safely get excited about next year!
Please excuse the spacing at the bottom of this post. Blogger won't let me fix it for some reason. Sorry.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Medical School Exams

I have a theory about medical school exams and what you need to learn to pass.

Just a small warning to anybody who is in med school or about to start, and who hasn't done any exams yet: I honestly think that if you learned only what was covered in lectures and practicals, you would not pass.

My theory is *ahemahem* that in order to pass exams in medical school, you need to study like mad for the weeks prior to the exam and hope like hell that enough of the RIGHT information sticks in your brain so that you can get the result that you want.

(I also believe in studying as you go along, however a lot of things slip out of your brain after a few months, so in theory, those weeks of cramming should technically be revision. I blame the big holes on the sides of my head for any information leakage that occurs, and need to revise with a capital R.)

Doing past exams can help you target this information, however there will always be several "WHAT THE HELL??!!" moments in any exam. Guaranteed. As long as they make up the minority of the exam, it is all good.

I am trying not to get stressed. After all, how am I going to handle college exams and actually working as a doctor if I find first year medical exams overwhelmingly stressful. ;)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hello, stomach!

I have eaten too much acidic food (why is fruit so tasty??) and now Gastrogel is my friend. The stress and extra coffee are also to blame.

I can't whinge about growing older being the cause - I had worse stomach inflammation when I was in my late teens. Now it only flairs up occasionally, and I am good at getting onto things to calm it down before it REALLY hurts.

You can now buy Ranitidine (Zantac) over the counter in Australia but I am hoping that it won't come to that.

Now excuse me, I need to do a shot of Gastrogel and drink something a little more stomach-friendly than black coffee.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The power of MRI

This is an MRI scan (from Radiology Picture of the Day) of the outer ear.

Why are we learning clinical examination skills, when I will just be able to fill out a request form for a scan of the relevant surface anatomy and have the radiologist and radiographers do the work for me? ;)


I love Google Image.

I may just pass the year because of it. ;)

Stress peak

At the moment, I know that I have reached my stress peak. How? Because nothing short of a disaster seems to dent my calm.

Usually I HATE going to the grocery store, particularly during the day. There are too many aggressive people with trolleys, children trying to throw themselves under my trolley wheels and huge lines.

Today, it didn't even bug me in the slightest. I just wandered along in a happy state. My handbasket became overloaded, so I just rearranged it so everything would fit, and held it so the handles didn't snap like little twigs under the huge load of veggies, fruit and rice milk.

When I got to the check-out, the lady working there managed to scan my rockmelon (Australian for "cantaloupe") in as a bag of tomatoes and then had to call for help to fix the problem. I looked at the picture on the checkout screen (they have LCD screens at my grocery store) of big, red tomatoes, looked down at my little rockmelon, and thought it was funny. (I'm an abstract and divergent thinker, and usually find things that are ridiculously out of place highly amusing. I'm not entirely losing my mind!) I didn't get annoyed at the delay at all.

As I was about to walk out of the checkout, with two heavy bags, the woman in the checkout next to me parked her trolley which was loaded with groceries and two small children, directly across my exit, meaning that I was trapped with two very full hands. (I am sure she didn't mean to do it, but was distracted as she had just been grocery shopping with two small children in tow!) With the help of the checkout lady, I managed to nudge the trolley away enough to escape, at which point the mother realised what she had done and apologised profusely. I really didn't mind at all, and found it amusing.

Normally, these things would have annoyed me a little. However, when I am under stress, I tend to function pretty well, and seem calmer and happier than normal. If I am under no stress at all, I get miserable and depressed. It is an odd personality quirk, and I don't think I would ever be capable of a laid-back life!

Just a quick note - has anybody else noticed that the Christmas decorations are up at the shop already?? The checkout lady mentioned to me that it is only 10 weeks away. I'm not really looking forward to Christmas day. It is the day you get to spend with the relatives that you don't like enough to spend time with normally. And you get to give them presents. Bah, humbug!!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sit! Stay! Study!

I have been studying like the mad and rabid study creature that I am. That is, I have no attention span, snap easily and graze a lot!

I have rediscovered the joys of caffeine in a mild way, and am working on the theory of "breadth, not depth" in my studies.

If all goes well, in a month or so I will be finished with my first year of medical school, and will be even closer to getting out into the real world as a doctor! Yes, this does frighten me a little. However, if I doubted my ability to do a good job, I would have never applied for medical school.

Hopefully by the time I get out into the real world, I will know what areas I enjoy working in, and I am really hoping that one will leap out and grab me. I have a few in my list, but they keep shuffling around. At this stage, it really doesn't matter.

This was just a quick post to let you know that I am still alive, and stuck in the process of hard-core study and procrastination!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Things that make me sad . . .

Last night, Lilya 4-ever was on television. (Bless you, SBS!) If any of you have seen it, you will understand how the movie made me feel - it is unremittingly tragic and heartbreaking, and it is made worse by the fact that you just KNOW that this actually happens to a LOT of women in real life, even in the countries that we live in.

It also made me sad for a couple of other reasons. For this terrible trade to happen, it must make a profit, which means that there must be enough men out there keen to be clients, which means that there are actually a lot of professional, well-paid men into this kind of thing (as opposed to the mental stereotype of the slimy degenerate). I wonder just how many men that we meet in everyday life support this industry. God, I just hate thinking about it.

The other thing that bothers me is that after watching the poverty in which Lilya lives, at one point she walks into a cosmetics store at the airport, and it hit me straight away just how RICH and wealthy the shop and the products looked. I blinked, looked at them again, and realised that it would not be unusual for me to walk into a shop like that in everyday life and take for granted the fact that I could probably buy any product there if I REALLY wanted to. (Just not all of them, at once.)

I look around my house today and see how many wonderful possessions I own. Even though I have been working for years and have paid for them myself, if it weren't for the accident of my birthplace (for Australia really is another rich, western nation), I would not have all of this. We are not wealthy by a long shot, but we are certainly comfortable.

The main theme that floored me was how ready people in the movie were to treat their children like possessions. Perhaps at some point their parents wanted them, but during the movie the two main characters are both abandoned by their self-centred (but poverty-stricken and alcoholic) parents, abused and left to fend for themselves. The adults in the movie don't look after them, but either treat them either as nuisances and pests to be deplored, as punching bags, or as objects to be manipulated and exploited for profit. There was simply nobody there for these kids.

I wanted to see hope for the main characters, but in the end their only hope was to escape from this life. To me, this seems to be an extreme option, and I would like to think that there were alternatives for them, people who could and would help at least a little, or other ways of getting out. To me, suicide is not an acceptable way out. Many people feel at some point in their lives that it is the way to go for them and there are unfathomable numbers who go down that path, but I believe that it is not the only way. The movie made it seem like it was, which probably saddened and angered me more than anything else.

Still, I thought it was an excellent movie. However, I could not recommend seeing it if you are feeling down, vulnerable or have had a bad day.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Good-bye, September

September is at an end, and the weather is getting very warm. Exams are getting close, and I get to work out a way to study while dripping sweat. I hate being hot. :(

I went to the air-conditioned gym today and did an RPM class (on exercise bikes to music) and even though I was sweating and working hard, I actually felt cooler than when I was sitting at home studying in the heat.

Also, what is it about exams being close that makes me want to cook, even though it is very warm in the kitchen? Anyway, please excuse the post quality. The other thing about being hot is that I get quite vague and have difficulty concentrating.

Northern Hemisphere residents, right now I am jealous.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm excited!

Can you guess why?

I realised that I am almost 1/4 through medical school and becoming a doctor. Hooray! As an added and extra bonus (which makes me resemble the kitty in the picture) I am nearly half-way through completing PBHell in its current format.

For me this is a lot. Medical school has been tough at times, but as long as something is interesting and worthwhile I don't ever mind working hard at it. To be honest, while it has involved a fair amount of work, it is definitely a goal I can attain.

It also means that I am almost a second year medical student. While not much, I won't be as embarassed any more when I don't have to call myself a "first year" any more. It is very exciting. I would imagine that the next time I feel like this will be when I am approaching the end of my intern year. But right now, that feels like a million miles away.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Credit where it is due

I don't usually wax on about being older, married and so on, but I just wanted to add a quick post to say that I am damn lucky that I am going to medical school now and not ten years ago when I was single and had a slightly less balanced life.

Living with a supportive partner has been the best gift I could have ever asked for. If I come home wondering whether I am overreacting to something, being unfair or worrying too much, I have a wonderful sounding board who is not afraid of being honest with me.

My better half can turn me from a nervous wreck who is sitting on the couch in a panic to falling off the same couch with tears rolling down my face in the space of thirty minutes. Hugs are also nice.

I could go on but I won't. I'll just add that he rocks.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Did I mention that today was the day that I was beginning my massive study period?

Of course I did. It is written directly below this.

Oh well.

Actually, revision is not so bad. I just hate the clotting cascade and everything in it. Stupid cascade. *grumblegrumble* Stupid finite brain.

Excuse me, I just have to go off to my corner to sulk and study simultaneously.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Tomorrow I am going to get my head down, start to do some serious study and finish with all of this procrastination. Tomorrow.

Reading about other people doing all of their wonderful study is starting to send me into panic mode. They have clearly been doing more organised work than me. (Polly clearly rocks. ;) ) I've been spending time trying to understand concepts, so hopefully when it comes to doing the Big Revision I will actually learn it pretty easily. Part of me doubts that this is the case. We will see.

But for now, I'll go to bed scared and focus on tomorrow.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sweet and deadly

Hospital morning teas can be deadly. Particularly when they spread out into lunch and afternoon tea because there is just so much wonderfully naughty food.

I always find it ironic that people who spend all of their day dealing with a lot of obesity-related illnesses will retire to the tea room and tuck into a second helping of cheesecake. :)

Off to the gym!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The confusing nature of modern medical courses

Sheepish (from The Paper Mask)posted a comment on the second-last post, and this entry started out as a reply to that, but ended up far too long. I turned it into a post instead (which will make my numbers for this month look far less slack ;) ).

There are many opinions out there that hold that the current nature of medical school teaching and learning in Australia is suboptimal. While I would argue that a keen, quality student from either the old system or the new is still going to make a good doctor (I'm sure nobody would argue with this), I definitely think that the current style of course is in dire need of some changes, at least at the level in which I have been involved.

The current medical courses which integrate PBL and lectures ARE extremely frustrating in that it is very difficult to work out what to learn. PBL seems almost too basic at times, but on the other hand, the lectures are delivered by scientists at a level that is so advanced that people whose undergraduate degrees were in these areas have trouble keeping up.

Perhaps the lecturer wants us to have a solid knowledge base in his or her area, but sadly we just get completely overwhelmed (well, I do!) and end up going back to good old Kumar and Clarke or other clinical textbooks to actually understand anything. The lectures don't tend to reflect what we need to know, or the depth at which we should learn it. As a result, we don't often get a lot out of the hours that we spend in them.

Most students end up relying on the advice of past students to get through exams. I would genuinely prefer to have a more guided course content, taught at the level that we need to know it. PLEASE bring back a more didactic teaching style in some fashion. We spend a week on a condition in PBL and almost never have a lecture on it. I LOVE when we have actual clinicians teaching us, but I think that this will happen more next year.

One of the other problems in PBL is that if you have a more dominant member of the group who has an excessive amount of confidence, he or she can convince the group that whatever they say is right, even when this is only the case in their own head. I would much rather look something up in a book or in a journal than argue a point or wonder whether or not I can believe a single thing that another person at my own level has to say. I would also rather spend time sticking pins in my eyes than arguing with somebody who uses LOGIC to prove that what is wrong is actually right. My brain is too small to take up space learning incorrect information!

I would like the style of course to change, and the universities are apparently receiving a lot of feedback about this, from both students and doctors. It is another matter whether they will listen or are happy to send students through with the course as it is.

It is sad that doctors who give their time to teach in a hospital setting (because we all know how much spare time you have ;) ) get students who aren't interested, particularly when you are making an effort. It isn't fair to you, and it makes things worse for those of us who are keen.

Long before I even considered being a medical student (well, not that long!), I had groups of medical students come through my work area in the hospital to observe things. Mostly they just stood back and gossiped instead of paying much attention to an area in which junior doctors quite often make fools of themselves. In the end, I told them this (in slightly stronger words), but I don't think it sunk in.

There was one student in all of this time who actually paid attention, asked questions and was interested, and in the end she learned a LOT more than the others, as I organised for her to spend a good while learning from one of the medical consultants (who was one hell of a teacher and who students would normally not have known about or wouldn't have had access to). Being interested pays off.

Having spent a little bit of time in clinical areas with others in my year, I was a little dismayed to see the same kind of behaviour. They are genuinely intelligent, nice, and enthusiastic people, and I don't think that they realised what they were doing, but it was still disappointing.
It is hard being in first year and not knowing much, but that doesn't mean that it is too early to get in there, have a go, and start learning. Hell, if somebody is willing to teach me, I'll be in there like a shot!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Why is it that it is easier to accept the decision of a parent to not vaccinate their child if you aren't close to them, but when they are very close to you and they tell you about the alternative literature they are reading and believe, and have decided against vaccination, it is something that is very hard to accept?

Yes, I respect the right of the parent to not give their children "pointy kisses." (See The Underwear Drawer's comic on Paediatricians.) It is just difficult when they accept the word of complete strangers over the opinion of those closest to them.


Sorry that the posts have been a little sparse lately.

I have exams coming up very soon, and I haven't been putting in enough study to feel comfortable about them. You know that feeling you have when your exams are getting closer and closer but Dr Phil suddenly looks far more interesting than metabolism diagrams?

It's that feeling.

Unfortunately it also seems to be the busiest time of the year socially, as I have family about to move away interstate and in-laws who like to drop in on a whim from interstate and expect everybody else to drop everything and spend time with them. I love them, but I'm expecting to see them a whole lot less when their only grandchildren (not mine) have moved more than a thousand kilometers away from us.

So, everything is coming to a head and quite franky, I will be happy to pass this year. I know I felt that before the mid-year, but I think I was slightly more organised and motivated then. Oh well.

Also, why do doctors who went through the old Australian 6-year undergraduate system feel obliged to trash-talk the new 4-year graduate medical courses? Most of our undergraduate medical courses are shortening to 5 years, anyway. Surely a 4-year graduate course after a science/health degree completed by more mature people compares favourably to a 5-year undergraduate course completed by somebody who could start the course as a 16-year-old?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Good luck!

Medical school interviews for next year in Australia are well and truly underway. To anybody who is about to go through them, good luck! I remember that it was a more stressful process for me than actually being in medical school.

Also, good luck to those of you in the other hemisphere who are about to start medical school. I'm excited for you - it is so much fun and you get to learn so many interesting things (as well as a lot of uninteresting things, but I don't pay much attention to them!).

A small word of advice - it appears that difficulty with aspects of organisation and administration in medical school is a vital part of our medical education no matter what part of the world you are learning in. Perhaps they wish to teach us patience. Maybe they are getting us ready for our jobs as doctors in the future. There is a distinct possibility that they just can't run any other way. Don't let it get to you. Ignore it, yell like hell when you need to, and just get on with the things that are more rewarding and infinitely more fun.

I might as well add a big fat GOOD LUCK to those of us preparing for our exams. If you are anything like me, you need it!

A fishy tale

The good news is that I am feeling much better than I was a few days ago. Welcome back, brain! Fortunately I managed to recover in spite of receiving almost no sleep at all on Saturday night. Here is a fishy tale of what occurred:

We had gone to visit my brother and his wife who life a few hundred kilometers away and so were staying the night. Our bed ended up being on the other side of a brick dividing wall to his aquarium. This dividing wall did not go all the way to the ceiling and the door was open anyway, so we could hear everything from the fish tank.

A few months ago, my brother bought a red devil cichlid to go in his tank. This fish is huge (about 25cm), and much larger than any of the other fish he has (or had) in his tank. It looks very similar to the fish above. The rule of fish often states that a fish will eat anything that can fit in its mouth. Some people who have these huge cichlids feed them so-called "feeder" goldfish as part of their diet. Nice.

In spite of there being a fair bit of shelter in the tank, within a couple of months, the only things left in the tank were some small crayfish, a slighly smaller red devil (who is around a quarter of the size of the bigger fish) and a couple of catfish who somehow swim fast enough or don't attract the wrath of the killer red devil. I won't go into what I think about this. He already knows.

When we went to visit my brother, he had installed a mesh divider across one quarter of his tank and (God only knows why) had put in two baby barramundi. The divider and the fish had been in the tank for a few weeks, so I assumed everything was as it should be.

For those of you who either aren't Australian or who aren't interested in fish, a barramundi is an Australian fish found in the Northern Territory rivers. They grow to be quite huge, but when they are small they are very cute (and bite-sized to larger fish). Their legal take-home size if you are fishing and happen to catch one is a minimum of 58cm and a maximum of 120cm. Big fish.

Although I may be destroying the suspense of the story by sharing this, I can also say that they are very agile little critters and can dart around like lightening when the need arises.

I had been asleep for no more than an hour when I heard really loud splashes coming from the tank. Having a big tank myself (full of fish who don't eat each other due to equal size and temperament) I know that the occasional splash is normal. However, these just kept coming. I snuck around the corner and sat in the shadows to watch what was happening.

This red devil was having a hell of a night. The mesh barrier was dented in several places and was sitting at an angle, but was still holding. The splashes were coming from the smaller red devil who was alternating between trying to hide in the log shelter, into which the larger fish was trying to force itself, and above a large solid plastic plant near the surface, where the bigger fish had a lot of trouble fitting. The bigger fish was being very territorial and trying to either chase the smaller fish out of its tank, or kill it. Not nice. Considering that they had been living in the same tank for months, the smaller fish had been quite good at not getting itself killed. I wasn't comfortable with this, however there wasn't anything that I could do for this poor fish, apart from try to convince my brother to do something about the situation in the morning.

Lying there listening to the splashes was horrible. But then, after a little while, there weren't any more splashes. Which in a way, was much worse. I stuck my head around the corner, and saw that the big fish had actually knocked down the mesh barrier, and was now in the half of the tank where the smaller fish should have been. There was no sign of them, and the only other thing in the tank was one very angry-looking little crayfish.

I went to my brother's room, knocked on the door, and told him what had happened. He swore, told me to just turn the light off in the tank, and went back to sleep. I now doubt that he was actually fully awake, as in the morning he had no idea of what had transpired.

Thankfully my husband was also there. We spotted the two little barramundi, who had escaped to the other side of the barrier. We tried to fix the barrier back into place as best we could, and turned the light off. Once again, without a second tank or any other equipment, there was nothing we could do.

It was so hard trying to fall asleep. I had no idea whether this big fish had broken out and was doing his best to eat the baby fish. Occasionally I heard a small splash. Then I went back to sleep.

When the morning came, the barrier was still in place, and the barramundi had avoided being eaten by the smaller red devil who looked well-rested after having had the rest of the night on the other side of the tank to his nemesis. The big red devil was still on the smaller side of the barrier. Later that day, my brother rearranged his tank and organised to trade his two larger fish. So now, the little barramundi are free to grow huge and eat the next lot of smaller fish that my brother decides to put into his tank.

Rant: If you have fish, PLEASE research the composition of your tank before you set it up. In the wild, smaller fish have somewhere to run, but in a tank, they are trapped and will die an awful death if you put them in an area with something that will eat them as a snack.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


At the start of the week I had all of these profound thoughts and comments to post but alas, Blogger took forever to load so I let both the deep and meaningful thoughts and the potential for posting them fly away in to the dark, breezy depths of my mind. (I'm not sure if it was blogger or my ISP. At the moment, I don't really care.)

Right now I am in the grip of a cold and my brain is on hiatus, so any thoughts I share would be at the level of a person who asks the same person the same question several times in the one day, albeit in slightly different forms. Not good.

I set the digital set-top box to record my favourite show, went back to watch it the next day, and found that I had programmed the wrong channel. Sometimes my brain frightens me.

I am really not on the ball, and we are also studying quite a difficult topic which I have half the energy to study, but need double the usual time. I would work out how I am supposed to study but my brain won't let me.

Now I have been thinking too much, and need a nap.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Post-purchase confusion

Being a little bit poor as a student (well, poorer than I was a year ago), I buy a lot of my books second-hand. Often it is a lot cheaper to buy them from the USA, even when shipping is added into the cost.

The most fun and frustrating part about this is that I have no idea when the book is likely to arrive. It usually takes between 2 and 8 weeks to get here, so you can imagine that any books I need quickly, I don't send for internationally (to state the bleeding obvious).

This means that I often send for books that I find interesting or would be helpful for my study, and get them a long time later, and almost forget about them in the meantime. When they arrive, it is like somebody has sent a present, but it is almost a present that I have forgotten why I wanted in the first place.

Yes, I will use them. And no, the are not a waste of money. It's almost like I'm thinking, "Oh. That's right. I wanted this book for histology study 8 weeks ago. Interesting. I remember how keen I was on histology, way back when we were covering the liver. Ah, the memories." At the time, the idea of the book was so much more exciting than the book itself when it actually arrived.

Not that I'm ungrateful, mind you. I still love my books.

And thanks to Roy from shrink rap for the mention. Perhaps medical students are insightful. Perhaps we are all just confused and tired and should lay off the vino a little bit more. :)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Why is it so?

Clinicians generally give the lectures that I find the most interesting. I won't say that they give the most interesting lectures, as this clearly depends on your point of view and personal interest.

However, I have noticed that psychiatrists as a group tend to give the most interesting and engaging lectures of all. Their voices are very natural and conversational in tone even as they lecture on academic topics, their communication skills are excellent, they look relaxed, and of course, they tend to have fantastic (yet anonymous) anecdotes.

It isn't just me who feels this way - other people I am close to who have no interest in psychiatry also love these lectures.

Perhaps we are lucky in our group of lecturers at my university. Perhaps psychiatrists who lecture also perform a lot of academic work and are used to lecturing large groups. Maybe spending all day communicating with patients rather than performing dry scientific research helps. Or is it that a lot of people go into psychiatry because they enjoy communicating and expressing themselves verbally to begin with?

Whatever the reason, psych lectures rock.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Junk mail

There is a junk mail delivery person who works in our area, and rides around on a motorbike that sounds exactly like the Australia Post delivery man's bike.

I'm sure I don't have to explain how annoying it is to hear the postman, run down to the letterbox only to find it filled with crap.

Why did we even bother putting the "no junk mail" sign on the letterbox to start with? There are people on our street who have made their own LARGER signs and attached them to their letterboxes. We are talking A4 sheets of paper, covered in plastic sleeves, using large-print, simple words.

They probably still get the junk mail.

I am very tempted to just put a big bin next to our letterbox, and put a sign on it that says, "junk mail receptacle". However, if they don't quite understand the concept of "no junk mail", the idea of a separate "letterbox" for their crap would just confuse them far too much.

More stuff about fish

Wow, a whole week has gone by since I posted last - time really is flying at the moment, and considering how close we are getting to exams, I am really a little scared.

We have one fish in our tank who has decided he wants to be boss over all of the other fish , and so spends the entire day chasing the others into hiding. Needless to say, it is not very relaxing.

I feel bad for them - there are plenty of hiding spaces in the tank, but its boundaries are very set and are never able to expand, so the fish can never get away.

At least he doesn't damage them the way that the previous "boss" fish did - we had to take him back to the pet store, because he was hurting the other fish. Because the others can't escape, I don't think it is at all fair to leave a fish like this in a tank with others who can be bullied by it. The new "boss" just chases them.

If we took him out of the tank, a new boss would emerge and start chasing everybody yet again, just to prove how much of a "boss" he was.

Sometimes fish are rather a lot like people. Very small, cold, wet, silly people. Scrap that - sometimes people like me take broad observations about simple animals and attempt to apply them to society. We probably shouldn't.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Is it wrong to be excited about this?

I can't wait to see this movie. For those into movie trivia, Peter Jackson's Weta Workshop buddies took care of the special effects.

Because the world needed a horror movie. With sheep. Really.

My old favourite

Just a quick note to say: Frank Netter was a genius.

If you are a medical or anatomy student and haven't heard of him, or if you have an interest in anatomy and want to see some excellent illustrations, his work can be found sneaking into any number of published works on anatomy, on the web, or (if you are lucky like me) in a book of its very own.

He was both a physician and a professional artist (another bio here) so the pictures are excellent from both points of view.

I find anatomy really interesting, and his pictures help me learn, understand and remember more than just about any other anatomy source. Combine his work with other sources (cadaver atlases, medical imaging anatomy books) and those big latin/greek words might just stick in your head!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Cats in the coriander

My day was making me VERY UNHAPPY. Unhappy enough to go into the Room of Screaming and Smashing. (I don't actually have this room. But sometimes I wish I did!)

Sometimes I hate the process of medical school. I hate PBL. There is no good side to PBL. I hate it. There is also something about nice people being medical students that makes me hate them from time to time. Actually it is the way some of them act when they are medical students.

If you don't know something, then you don't know it. Considering that we are all STUDENTS, we don't know enough of anything at this point in time to shout each other down. This is just RUDE. (This is one of the main reasons I still work. Being at the hospital and working keeps me sane. Plus, I love being around patients.)

Just when I thought it was all a bit too much, I found that Ah Yes, Medical School is going to have a sequel: Ah Yes, Residency.

Also, my chili bush is starting to flower. Which means chillies will be arriving quite soon.

Oh, and when I arrived home, our strangest cat was in the front yard sampling my coriander pot-plant which I had put out on the ground to catch some rain. Yes, I know he was eating my herbs. But there is something funny about a cat eating coriander. Afterwards, he told me that he prefers celery leaves.

(N.b. He didn't ACTUALLY tell me that he prefers celery leaves. However, he eats them with much more gusto when they fall out of the fridge. This is even funnier that him eating coriander.)

So now I am going to have a thump on the piano and get back to study.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The more you learn . . .

We are approaching the end of first year, and somehow I still don't feel like I know very much at all. I know that my overall knowledge has increased exponentially since the start of the year. However, the more I learn, the more I realise that I will never know.

I remember that not so long ago, whenever I met a medical student I expected them to somehow have superior knowledge of all things medical, and when they demonstrated gaps in an area or two, it was a bit of a disappointment. It is funny how the words "medical student" produce an increased amount of respect in the general public but a slightly decreased amount of respect among allied health and other hospital staff. Of course, I'm joking here! However when a medical student comes in who is entirely dismissive of qualified professional staff because they are not doctors, and the student knows nearly nothing about the area he or she is in yet refuses to acknowledge the fact that people apart from doctors know what they are talking about, it is bound to rub people up the wrong way.

It is fairly safe to say that I will never be one of those students. Sadly, I can see people in our course even now who are just bound to fit right into that stereotype. They will learn. Hopefully.

Actually, I have been pleasantly surprised by how helpful a lot of the senior doctors are towards medical students. I somehow expected them to be a lot ruder, or more dismissive. I'm very curious to see how it will all turn out when we go out into the hospitals later on in the course. I might change my mind completely.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

My confused little brain

Recently, it rained for the first time in a long time where I live.

This can often have interesting effects on the way your mind works.

I walked out the back door, looked out at the wet ground, and the first thing that popped into my head was that a pipe had probably burst somewhere underneath the house.

Then I looked up, and realised that it had just started raining.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Seeing life through the eyes of others . . .

is a wonderful blessing.

I have mentioned the blog Terrible Palsy before, and why I really love it. Her writing is fantastic, and I love reading about the way she and her family (including one son, "Moo", who has cerebral palsy) go through life together.

The August 12th post, "Close of the Curtain" is something that I think everybody should read. It is an especially touching post and brought tears to my eyes. Tolerance, empathy and understanding should be the standard, not the exception.

I think the blog title is great, however I dread the day that I am tired and the words "terrible palsy" slip out when I mean to say "cerebral palsy"!!

My cunning plan

Final exams are looming, and I am rather . . . behind.

Luckily, I have made a Study Plan! It is guaranteed to succeed. I know this for a fact, because:

1) I made it up on my computer;

2) It is in the form of a table, with official-looking columns and rows;

3) I have used fancy lettering;

4) If it doesn't succeed, I will be in Big Trouble;

5) There is no way in HELL that I am going back to my old job permanently, and as such, I am driven by a big scary monster called FEAR;

6) The last exam was bloody painful, and I would like this one to be slightly less so.

Huzzah! It can't fail!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Beware the bathroom doorknob

Here is a trap for young players:

Recently moisturised hands and round, smooth doorknobs do not a happy pair of friends make.

Standing at the bathroom door trying to escape the heat and managing to turn the knob a little, but not quite enough to actually open it, is rather frustrating!

The next time we renovate, I am choosing and easy-to-grip, preferable non-round door handle, damnit!

I wonder if something like this would be out of the question:

Stylish, practical, everything I could ever want, really. Plus, the cats would love it. ;)

BTW, if you are at all into doorknobs, there are some fantastic pictures on Flickr. If you happen to be into that sort of thing.

Saturday, August 11, 2007


How do you deal with it when somebody you know and admire is doing something awful that you never thought they would do?

Right now all that I can feel is sadness.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I find it interesting to see how much more positively people respond when you are enthusiastic and positive about something. I guess people like being around positive people much more than negative people who whinge a lot of the time.

As I have mentioned before, I really enjoy studying medicine even though the process of medical school and the associated assessment can be somewhat vexing from time to time. When casual aquaintences meet me and ask how it is going, I like to respond by waxing on about how much I am enjoying the study and finding it interesting (which I honestly am). I don't like to go on and on about how some parts of the course annoy the hell out of me, because: a) this would bore them to death; b) focusing on negatives drains me and the people I am talking to; and c) what good would it do? I always feel a lot better about what I am doing when I think about the positives - and there are many!

I love the information I get to study - it really is so very interesting and incredible! I love the people that I get to study with and learn from. Most of them are so helpful and intelligent, and I am looking forward to being colleagues with such a great bunch of people. I really enjoy working with the patients who I get to meet, both through study and in everyday work. I love talking to them and finding out as much as possible about them, their lives and what is going on. I love the depth and variety of pathology that we get to encounter. I love my textbooks! ;)

People are really fascinating, and I think that a lot of how they feel about somebody comes from how that person makes them feel when they are around. Have you ever noticed that genuinely popular people (as opposed to "popular" people) always seem to be positive, caring and kind? When they are around, they make you feel enthusiastic, valued and good about yourself. Have you also noticed that when a genuinely nice person can only seem to whinge about everything in life, people seem to tire of them being around and their sympathy and empathy soon wears thin?

When I was younger, adults who saw the glass as half empty and predicted that everything would go badly would always make me feel terrible about things. It took a lot of years to learn that they didn't necessarily know how things were going to turn out any more than I did, and that some people seem to get perverse pleasure from whinging and stressing about the worst possible outcome. I think that medicine seems to attract a fair few of these vocal people, and it does the rest of us good to take what they say with a grain of salt, or at least look at what they say and try to work out how they are seeing it from their point of view - some people have had a rough time in life and seem to think that it is also going to apply to everybody else as well.

Don't get me wrong, I know that I am not a "popular" person. (I don't think I have the energy that this would require!) However, I try to be genuinely positive and enthusiastic in life, about my life and about the people around me. At the end of the day, we all feel a little bit better for it. I think that I have a choice - I can either be happy where I am and doing what I am doing, or I can focus on the negatives and feel bad. (I'm not talking about depression here - that is an entirely different kettle of fish, and anybody who thinks that they can choose not to be sad is being both cruel and clueless.) And yes, I have worked for years in the public hospital system. That won't get me down, either.

I do like listening to patients, by the way, in case any of you were wondering. I also like hearing the genuine troubles of those I am close to and care about. I am also happy to listen to people whinge when something bad has happened to them, or if they are having a bad day. It is when people don't do anything but complain that it gets tiring.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

And a little inspiration . . .

propelling me to study and think about where I could be in a few years time.

ANZAPT is a support forum for Australian and New Zealand Psychiatrists in Training. I love it as it gives outsiders an insight as to what it is like to train as a psychiatrist, and includes the bad as well as the good.

It is definitely worth a read if you are considering going into this field.

My brain is running on half-power . . .

and I suspect my cat ate one of the mice that runs the wheel that supplies the power. Anyway, as a strange result, I'm feeling philosophical. It is a little bit like being drunk, but I am more co-ordinated and am legally allowed to drive.

One of the things that always surprises me in life is when you try something you never thought you could do, and you succeed. For me, the whole process of medical school has been a lot like that. I never expected to do as well as I did on the entrance exam. Sure, I worked hard for it. I never expected to get in, and didn't expect to do well in the first few rounds of assessment that I have done. But I did.

Perhaps we should all be more willing to challenge ourselves and do the things that we always wanted to do, especially if the only reason for not attempting them is fear of failure.

I feel both admiration and jealousy for people who seem to wander through life without a hint of self-doubt or fear of failure. But then again, I think I would rather have a well-developed sense of my own fallibility than fly along feeling bulletproof.

I guess there is a happy medium somewhere that we all need to find. Perhaps I need to push my level of confidence from "I don't know if I can but I am going to work at it so it happens" to "I know I'll be able to do it and I'm working hard to get there." Life would be a lot less stressful.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Oh, the shame!

Although the medical students at our university have been back at lectures for ages, we are still only a couple of weeks into second semester for the regular undergrads. However, it is SECOND semester (unless, of course, you started your degree halfway through the year) and so you would expect them to be on top of things and used to being independent uni students.

Not always.

This afternoon, I was treated to the sight of a young man being dragged through the university bookstore by his mother. Seriously.

Could he not be trusted to buy the books himself, even if he had to be given the money by his parents? Is his mother such an expert in the areas he is studying that she is aiding him in his textbook selection? (Given that most courses have set textbooks, this is unlikely.) Can she not let go? Is he hoping that he won't be seen by anybody he knows? Does he realise that the amount of time he spends on campus with his mother is inversely proportional (in an exponential manner) to his chances of hooking up with a nice girl, or even (especially) a not-so-nice girl??

I don't mind going out for a meal or seeing my parents socially. I love them. But even as an 18 year-old I didn't need them with me to show me the ropes at university. Considering that neither of them had been to university or had studied the courses I studied, it would have been ludicrous. And boring for them. And they would have let me know, and whinged about when I was going to actually grow up and do things for myself.

Seriously, as somebody whose parents encouraged her independence, I can hardly imagine how painful the process must be for this young man, and for his mother. I can only hope that he is a first-year. And will move out soon. For his sake.

I think my husband's mother came to uni with him a couple of times in his first week. Thankfully, I hadn't met him yet. So there is hope, yet, young man! You may yet grow up to be normal, well-adjusted (if slightly mad) and independent! Break free!! ;)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The joy of Clinical Medicine

I just thought that I would add that I am in love - with Kumar & Clarke's Clinical Medicine.

Sadly, I come from a clinical background rather than a scientific one, so I actually learn much faster and understand better when I see things presented from a clinical viewpoint. Thus, any books that present things from a clinical view make me fall in love with them, buy them and bring them home to live with all of their brothers and sisters.

I frequently feel stupid when I talk to people with strong scientific backgrounds in various areas, but I am quite used to feeling like I don't know much at all so it is nothing new. Good to get used to it now, BEFORE I am an intern, I guess. :)

Some days I am so happy to be learning more about medicine, but other days I am just terrified at the amount that I don't know, and worse still, the amount that seems to flow out of my brain when I am not looking. Some times all I can do is scratch my head and wonder about how I am going to deal with it when I am actually out there and working as a doctor. Time will tell.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The myth of the balanced life

Yes, the idea of the medical student who works, exercises, eats well and studies everything they are meant to is a complete myth. However, there are some things that I have found that I absolutely have to do to feel well.

1) Exercise. Watch the TV or movies that you love. If you do both at the same time, it counts as productive time rather than pure relaxation or procrastination. ;)

2) Eat healthy food. Avoid takeaway. Find a few nice FAST meals (or some good healthy frozen ones). Nothing will get you down faster than putting on weight and feeling like crap.

3) Actually stop procrastinating and get in and do the study quickly! Find effective ways of study that work for you. I learn by answering questions. Others learn my re-writing information. Others retain things by reading. We are all different.

4) Schedule some time for social events. Don't turn into a hermit. But don't feel pressured into going to all the crazy parties if that isn't your style.

5) Find some excellent friends/tutors in higher years and organise tutorial sessions, and get their advice. This counts as effective study.


7) Even if anatomy isn't particularly examined, learn a good grounding of the basics. I love anatomy (including histology), so I had to put this in. I hated learning it as an undergraduate, but I am so bloody happy that from now on it is mainly revision.

8) Take the time to do the things that you really want to do. Life has a way of forcing you to take time-out if you don't do it for yourself. Stay in control. Do it your way. :)

9) Keep an eye out for specials. Get that facial. Buy those pants. Find places on-line where you can buy the nice smelly fancy perfume/cosmetics/face care products that make everyday things much nicer.

10) Cuddle a cat. Or a dog. Or a friend. However, before you do this, just make sure that none of them bite or scratch first.

11) Reward yourself for the things that you HAVE done, rather than punishing yourself for the things that you haven't. Sure, I didn't manage to learn EVERYTHING in first semester that I wanted to. But I passed the exam and got a good mark, and I feel good about it!

Anyway, they are just a few thoughts I wanted to jot down. Hope you are all having a good day.

Contain your shock - I wrote another post!!

I just thought I would write a couple of thoughts about the graduate medicine experience that have been floating through my head lately.

We get lectures every week - usually around 7 or 8 of them. However, the content and order is completely variable, and we will often have weeks where it seems that we have covered the intricate detail of XYZ cellular process, and have not been "taught" one thing on the major pathological process of the week.

Frustrating? Yes. Confusing? Often.

One of the odd things that people who are not in the course don't seem to expect is that we don't have any real kind of continuity in our lecturers. We may have the same expert twice in the one week talking about the same topic, and then not see them again for another year or two. We certainly don't have regular lecturers who guide us through the concepts in a logical fashion week after week. In essence, you have to learn how to guide yourself.

We have two or three academics from the university who seem to come in semi-regularly to teach in their areas, which helps. However, they often seem to teach in areas about which they are not experts. This can be offputting, particularly when you recognise that something they are brushing over is not quite right. (This happens when you are already a qualified person in the area concerned and you recognise that they are teaching material that because obsolete 20 years ago, not because you read something different in a magazine somewhere!)

Thus, I have become a hoarder of textbooks. I look up to their authors as I used to idolise my lecturers in my undergraduate courses. Just joking!! But seriously, I am getting sentimental about my textbooks where I used to not particularly care about them. I have also noticed other people do this.

To do well in this course, you have to be HIGHLY self-motivated to the extent where you are able to work out your own study schedule and take an educated guess at the areas you are supposed to be covering. Past exams and the advice of students in higher years is invaluable.

When motivation starts to lag, the only person who is capable of pulling you back into line is . . . yourself.

I don't mind all of this. It is just different. I am still rapt to be studying medicine, even if it isn't all sunshine, fluffy white clouds and ponies. And why the goat? No particular reason. Perhaps if I were as stubborn as one, I would get more study done! Besides, I love the hair - that goat looks high-maintenance!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Welcome to August

Happy August!
I have been slack with the posting (along with many other things!), so sorry for the break.

Since I last posted:

1) I caught up with my friend and her baby and had a fantastic time. She is back to her old self again now that she is used to the sleep deprivation, and her baby is gorgeous. Thanks for the advice, everybody who posted.

2) We are even further into the second half of the year, which frightens me a fair bit, as we are so much closer to the end-of-year exams and I still have so much left to learn. But I am VERY excited about being a SECOND YEAR!!!

3) Motivation to study regularly has gone away for a long break. Perhaps it is the topics we are covering, or the sheer quality of what is on television, or the fact that I am actually exercising again. Sorry, cross out that middle one.

4) Being a first-year medical student is getting very frustrating and annoying. I love the medical study and learning about how things happen. However, the way universities run things still drives me insane. I doubt that I could do what they do with the budget that they have, however as a student it gets frustrating when you feel like you are falling between the cracks and nothing you can do is changing anything.

5) I read the final Harry Potter book the first day it was released, so that I didn't have to worry about overhearing the ending. I love the fact that most of the "spoilers" that had been released on the internet were just plain wrong. (I looked them up AFTERWARDS!) :D

6) Everything has been going swimmingly. Hope you're all having fun, too!

Thursday, July 12, 2007


A close friend of mine had a baby a couple of months ago, and up until now things have been a little difficult between the two of us. I won't detail the way her life and priorities have changed (because I am sure that you who have children can fill in the gap), but the dynamic of the friendship has had a major shift, and in a way I am feeling isolated as well as experiencing an odd sense of betrayal.

Why? I have no idea, but the feeling is there. It might have something to do with the fact that we were close friends before, and now I'm ranking very low on her list of things, coupled with the fact that when we talk, she seems not to want to listen to what I am saying. Thinking about it, this last tendency probably has more to do with how exhausted she is than anything else.

It makes me very sad to think that we could lose our friendship, as well as a sense of jealousy that she could prefer to hang out with other new mothers that she has only just met, rather than me. But in a way I can understand it. They can share what she is going through, obsess about their children together the same way that my medical school friends and I obsess about our studies together, and know that the other person has a very good idea about how they feel and what they are going through.

She has started a different phase of her life, leaving career behind to stay at home with her new baby, while I work and begin a new career. We're really moving at completely different paces.

Anyway, today I decided that it won't be my fault if the friendship dies away. I've decided to try to get into more regular contact with her, by phone or e-mail if she is too busy with family and baby stuff to get together for coffee. (Honestly, this couple is harder to book time with than a working medical student!) I can only cross my fingers and hope that she's willing to get on board, and be patient.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Adult textbooks + cartoons . . . WHY????

I am so keen on next semester that today I went out and bought a textbook that should cover the topic for the next few weeks, and is a "Crash Course" review book for students rather than a full-on medical textbook.

Summarising is now my friend, whilst massive tomes with 1000+ pages are the enemy.

However, I can't say that I am a fan of books with cartoons next to their bullet points. I know they are trying to make the book more "fun", but seriously, no student using it is going to be younger than 18 or 19 in the most extreme case, and most will be in their mid-twenties. I grew out of cartoons a good fifteen years ago in language classes. I can only imagine how ridiculous this must seem to a medical student in their fifties, if I find it painful at my age.

Yet textbooks aimed at adult learners STILL have cartoons. And not funny ones. They are pictures of a strange-looking person looking happy and pointing his finger in the air, as if he is elucidating some brilliant point.

However, the fact that I can actually understand it forces me to forgive the inclusion of these annoying little figures. I would rather understand the subject, pass the exams and be a good doctor than be put of by zany cartoon figures.

Hmm, now I'm sounding even more odd than usual. I'm blaming boredom. I am getting to that point in the holidays (even though I have been working) where I am bored and ready to study again. Bring it on, baby!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oh, the shame . . .

Well, I have sunk to a new low, everybody. I have to admit it publicly, so I can grow, and move forwards.

My name is the Girl, I have a blue stethoscope, and I am a medical school addict.

We go back to university soon, and I am actually looking forward to beginning to study the new topics. I am getting very excited that I am more than half-way through first-year, particularly as I really enjoy practical work much more than theoretical. (I like theory but I can only get really into it when I see it applied in real-life. Then it all makes sense!)

I have all these plans in my head about how this semester will be more organised than last, about how I am going to summarise and shorten rather than get bogged down in masses of detail and feel lost. Somehow I know that it won't quite work out that simply, but I like to dream that it just might!

I miss the campus, I miss the coffee, and I miss the people. Most of all, I miss the hours. I know that you work pretty hard studying at uni, but compared to full-time work, it just isn't the same. I like getting home at midday, knowing that I have the rest of the afternoon off to study. I miss being able to sleep in during the week.

I miss being able to sleep in instead of going to a lecture, knowing that I can just wake up later and read through the notes myself. I miss being able to go to the shops during the day. Good grief, I have completely morphed back into a uni student!

Not long, now.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Somewhere over the rainbow . . .

. . .there is a mysterious place that is free of all of the farce and nastiness that goes on in the hospital system.

Sometimes when I am drifting off to sleep at night, I like to imagine this place in my head. It is a special place. Some would even call it magical.

All that glitters is gold. There are unicorns, pixies and elves in the woods on the hospital grounds who are seen by everybody, not just those who have gone for 30 hours without sleep. In the middle of the night they clean and wax your cars and procure you healthy take-away food when the hospital cafe is closed at dinner-time, and surround everybody entering and leaving the hospital with a wondrous cloud of pixie dust and cheerful applause.

When you ask a more senior member of staff a perfectly reasonable question, they look deeply into your eyes, give you an honest, in-depth answer, and then thank you for your hard work and effort. Whenever you turn a corner, you will often see consultants shaking hands with the cleaning staff and wards-people for the tireless work that they do.

The medical students are well-trained, hard-working and prepared for every situation, due to the top-notch training and mentoring that has been invested in them by the staff who have sufficient time set aside each day for this important task. They feel like a valued part of the team, and love coming to the hospital. They look forward to graduating and coming back as interns, knowing that the training that they have received will stand them in good stead to step up to the role ahead of them.

When a patient has just had their life saved and they thank the doctor, the doctor replies, "Thanks, Mr/Mrs Smith, don't just thank me. It was a team effort!"

In the operating theatres, the surgeons and the anaesthetists all get along really well. Everything runs on time, the teams are prefectly co-ordinated, and when there is an emergency case or equipment malfunction, nobody gets angry and attacks the nearest helpless minion. They all just nod, smile and say, "Oh well, these things happen, let's make sure the urgent cases get done first and then we'll take it from there."

The doctors value the nurses, the nurses respect the doctors, and the nurses don't take out their frustrations on everybody else. It is a wonderful place, where everyone who walks through the door knows that it take much more than doctors and nurses to care for patients.

The patients are all seen promptly, treated as individuals and experience excellent care due to the large number of qualified staff allocated to look after them. Nobody ever slips through the cracks.

Nobody ever assumes that psychiatrists are crazy or aren't real doctors. The surgeons go home every night at 5pm to their happy families. The other staff know that anaesthetists do more than sit in the corner and play sodoku, and are applying passive attention as well as working hard behind their drapes and machines. The pathology staff are seen as a valuable part of the team, and everybody comprehends what they do. The radiology department is loved by all, everybody understands that you can't fit three patients into the CT scanner at once no matter how urgent they all are, and people appreciate the valuable skills and years of work that have gone into the expertise of the radiologists.

People understand that certain test results can't be received instantly because of the time required to do them. Everybody knows what all those other people in strange uniforms who aren't doctors or nurses actually do. The small amount of administrative staff who are required are extremely competent and get everybody's pay right the first time.

Usually by this time, I have drifted off into a blissful sleep, where nobody ever throws instruments in rage, yells at me for broken equipment, rolls their eyes when I show up to perform a test that they actually requested or tells everybody (right in front of me) that I am a moron and they could do my job easily when it took me an entire 4-year degree to become qualified. One can only dream . . .